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Posts Tagged ‘Andre Agassi’

PostHeaderIcon Andre Agassi Finds Happiness and Opportunity on the Tennis Court

I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.

Andre Agassi, Open.

It was a shockingly unexpected comment from one of the game’s greats, and a hero to many, me included. However, all things change with time. And if the huge smile on Andre’s face during the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes Champions Showdown’ (part of the PowerShares series) was any indication, he’s had a change of heart.

The final events of the PowerShares series are coming up this week in Denver and Anaheim, with Andre participating in both for a shot at finishing in the top three for a share of the $1M prize money. I had a chance to chat with Andre before his matches in San Jose, and one thing is certain: Andre is having the time of his life these days, and is wholeheartedly enjoying his association with a sport that was once the source of great turmoil and pain.

The 42 year-old Vegas showman lit up the arena with comprehensive victories over Jim Courier and John McEnroe. It was vintage Agassi: smacking backhands to the corners, crushing forehands, and blasting service returns winners at will past the net-charging McEnroe. When I asked Andre before the match how he was able to juggle his business ventures while still playing competitively in events such as this, he jokingly responded, “You’ll see tonight that I don’t spend too much time playing tennis anymore“.

To the contrary, Andre’s play was an impressive display of shot-making. Both Courier and McEnroe did their best to keep the ball out of Andre’s strike zone with high topspin, low angled slices, and deeply chipped shots with very little pace. It was a strategy that probably would have worked against most other players, but not against a guy like Agassi with the ability to hit the ball cleanly on the rise from both sides, no matter where he is on the court. It was inspiring tennis.

The best part of the evening, hands down, was seeing the joy on Andre’s face as he played. It’s a fitting reward for a guy who once hated tennis “with a dark and secret passion”. In fact, Andre’s current state of happiness with the game of tennis is palpable. It’s given him everything he holds dear, including his wife of eleven years, Stefanie, and their two kids, Jaden and Jaz. Steffi, in particular, provides the stability that allows him to pursue his passions.

I have a strong infrastructure and great people around me certainly. But my wife is where it begins, because without that foundation at home none of this would be possible.

The biggest slice of “this” is most certainly Andre’s work with his Andre Agassi Foundation For Education, helping disadvantaged kids get the education needed to succeed in life, and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Andre’s continued efforts on behalf of the foundation have helped grow its’ endowment to over $550M to help build charter schools across the country.

“Am I a philanthropist? Yeah, I give a lot of money, but I feel there should be more to it. I came to the conclusion that what I am is a facilitator. I bring a lot of people together to create a vision, to get involved, to put leadership in place and get people to go above and beyond” (Bob Cohn, “Tennis no longer 1st in Agassi’s life“, TribLIVE, Oct. 14, 2012).

As if his foundation work wasn’t enough, Andre has created the ‘BILT by Agassi and Reyes’ line of training equipment with his good friend, Gil Reyes. The philosophy behind the BILT machines is one of maximizing training while also protecting the athlete’s body and joints. As Andre put it, it’s a bit “surreal” how it’s all come together – the culmination of their work together, combining all the knowledge they’ve amassed over the years of Andre’s time on tour.

This particular time in my life is really special because it’s a full-circle kind of journey for me to see the sport give a platform and allow me to do some of the things I care about off the court. To watch what Gil did for me… and see it turn into a business that will help others like it helped me.

Even with his loaded schedule, Andre still finds time to enjoy the current generation of top players. When I asked if he thought his best play could match up with that of the “Big Four”, his answer was a quick and decisive “No”. He went on to say, “The game has gotten better, and it keeps getting better. What these guys do now is they have as much offense as I ever thought of having, and their defense is far superior.” But when asked if he can still take a good rip at a ball like the old days, he smiled and said, “Oh yeah.” Having witnessed his demolition of Courier and McEnroe, I agree.

Andre has always been one of the greatest ball strikers to ever play the game. But six years removed from his dramatic retirement at the US Open, he’s that and much more. Andre is a man who’s driven to give others the opportunity for education that, ironically, he never had. And he’s gone from hating tennis to realizing its’ potential to help others achieve success and personal happiness.

We should all be so lucky.

PostHeaderIcon Excerpts of Andre Agassi & Peachy Kellmeyer’s Hall of Fame Induction Speeches

I was looking for video from the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony last night but couldn’t find anything posted online until today. I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope that it resonates as much with you now after the fact as it did when I watched him do it live.


PostHeaderIcon The Agassi Effect

I met Andre Agassi. But it’s not exactly what you might be thinking.

After getting my copy of "Open" signed by Andre AgassiHe came to San Francisco for a book signing at Books, Inc. to promote his autobiography ‘Open’.  There was a long line when I got there about an hour and a half before Andre was scheduled to arrive. I didn’t mind waiting though. For a chance at seeing Andre up close it was a small price to pay.  There was one stipulation to the signing that was a major bummer. No picture-taking was allowed.  It’s like being told you can see the tree fall in the forest, but you can’t record the sound. Still, it was a chance to meet one of the greatest tennis players that has ever swung a racquet.

Andre was a little late because of bad weather and traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge, but we didn’t mind.

The line moved pretty quickly once he got settled in. After 30 minutes or so I rounded the corner past the initial rows of books in the store… and there he was. About 20 people were still ahead of me at that point so I had a few minutes to think about what to say to him as he signed my book. And really, what can you say to someone of his stature who you’ve idolized for so many years? I’ll put it this way: the end result was not the quality I expected. I got up to the table, looked at him with those large eyes I had seen so many times on TV staring down Pete, Roger, Goran, et al. Around his neck was the beaded necklace his son had given him years before (and which I’d also seen so many times on TV). And it hit me like a rock. HOLY CRAP IT’S REALLY ANDRE AGASSI! After all of that I think I said something along the lines of “Thank you so much for all you’ve done, and I’ve always wanted your backhand”. Pretty great, huh?

Instead of focusing on that embarrassing utterance, however, I’d like to focus on the much more eloquent words Andre used in his Hall of Fame induction speech today. He is well aware of the effect he has on people like me, and everyone else. From his younger days as a punk kid to now being the elder statesman, he has come to realize the role he can have in shaping our world for the better, using his power and influence to help and inspire others. Having just read his book (which outlines his profound transition from punk to elder) the week before that signing, the only words I could think of to say to him were “Thank you… thank you for being so open to us, showing us your highs and lows and your ultimate redemption”.

Today he proceeded to tell us all “You’re welcome” and a host of other things including:
“If we’re lucky in life, we get a few moments where we don’t have to wonder if we made our parents proud.”
“They (nurses and teachers) know already what it took me decades to find out: To shine in secret, and to give when there’s no one applauding,”
“It’s not to late to be inspired. It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late”

Congratulations Andre. And thank you for the inspiration of the backhand way back when AND for the continued inspiration to keep on the path of doing good and helping others.

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